The Two-Step of Change Leadership

I love change.  Or so I thought.

A few months ago I made an offhand comment to my husband in mixed company,

“I love change!” I declared.

What came back was an incredulous look, “No you don’t.  You hate change.  You only love change you initiate.  You hate it when it happens to you.”

To which I could only say….. “Oh.  Right.”

As a leader I can be so focused on driving change for an organization that I forget how it feels to have change roll over you.  That is how it feels, isn’t it?  Change that comes at us can feel like a speeding Mack truck rolling over our hopes, our plans, our best intentions, our routines.  Change comes and our sense of security, stability and well-being vanish.

The Difference between Leading Change and Coping with Change

But I do love to drive change.  What does that means?  It means I like to bend the world to my vision of the future.  I like to design the future according to my preferences.  I like to anticipate what is on the horizon and create something now that will serve that future time well.

Leading change is different from coping with change.

Recognizing that big difference is a key factor in equipping teams and leaders to manage and navigate change. 

Leading change means you are in a position with some authority to make a series of decisions about other people’s lives.  It feels different to the change leader than it does to the change leader’s team. Being in control of decisions about other people’s destiny is a responsibility to take seriously.

Change leaders out there, it is wise to remember this!

A Lesson in Change Leadership

Here are a couple change insights to keep in mind as you lead and navigate change in your organization and on your teams:

Change leadership requires a complicated emotional dance; ours and theirs.

The emotional stories of the leader and the team are necessarily different.

 Be aware of this difference and make intentional space for it.

When we lead change, we have to step through our own emotions while simultaneously equipping others to navigate their fears, excitement, anxiety, curiosity and anger.  Yes, anger.  We feel all kinds of emotions when we move through change, and leaders would do well to realize that the emotions that arise when you are reacting and responding to someone else’s change are different from the way we feel when we are leading change.

We need to create two spaces:

Ø  A space in which we can be listened to, and

Ø  An environment in which we can listen to and facilitate our team’s change process.

These two practices will help you navigate through both your experiences and theirs:

1.      Find a trusted colleague you can talk with regularly.

This should be a peer with whom you can discuss your own personal experience and from whom you can seek counsel, as you help your team navigate the change successfully.  The change you experience personally and the one you are leading are different.  Make space for both experiences in your conversation.

2.      Make space to listen to your team.

Facilitate conversations that both share information (even the fact that you don’t have information is information!) and seek to discover their questions.  Be prepared to:

Ø  Listen.  Really listen, honestly and openly.

Ø  Reflect back that you have heard what was shared.

Normalize the feelings:  they are valid.

Ø  Ask questions about what will best equip them to move forward through the change.

Ø  Ask what their questions are.  Their unanswered questions will keep them from being engaged and energized.  You need to know what they want to know more about.

Note: It is typically not wise to try to answer those questions as they are asked.  Collect all the questions first, and then answer them.

As leaders, it is our responsibility to point toward a positive future.  To be able to help the team and organization frame what the New, Future Reality will look like.  Conversations that ask and answer questions begin to shape a common vision.  When the vision begins to be shared by a team’s collective imagination, you are on your way to creating the future together.


Change is both a constant and a challenging part of our professional lives. Leading change and managing change are different skills, and learning to navigate both processes successfully is essential to long term leadership success.

I capture the difference between leading change and managing change in this way:  It’s all in the direction of your gaze.

Leading change requires a leader to look up and out in the direction one wants to travel and to describe how to get there. 

Managing change requires the manager to look across the organization and down into their area of influence, and adequately describe and oversee the work that needs to be executed.

There is more to it, of course. But asking, “Which direction are you looking?” will offer a fairly good insight into whether you are engaged in leading change or managing it.

To effectively navigate from Here to There a leader must look in both directions.

Knowing which one captures your attention and imagination at this point in your career is an important insight that can help ensure that you are both doing the work you love and serving the organization well.

Do you notice the details? Do you easily see the relationships between tasks, teams, people and projects? Are you the consummate planner and implementer? This is the management and execution side of the street.

Alternatively, do you have a talent for seeing opportunities where none exist today? Do you imagine new ways to solve problems? Have a talent for seeing a different future reality than the one that exists today? If so, then you likely thrive in the leadership lane, leading the conception of project and building the strategy upon which a team will succeed.                                   

Discovering which kind of leader you are wired to be at this point in your career can be undertaken by simply noticing which of these two lanes captures your attention.

Then you have to discipline yourself to do what was asked of you as a kid: look both ways before you cross the street!

Organizational success depends on the ability to execute on a great vision.

So, leaders, are you looking both ways as you cross the intersection with your organization? When you do, you can ensure you will get from Here to There successfully.

Tune in to hear Jennifer and Jeff, Voltage Leadership’s CEO, take a deeper dive on this topic on this episode of their radio show Illuminating Leadership.


I was recently facilitating a strategic offsite for a symphony orchestra in Virginia. It was a fascinating experience as I am a big classical music fan. One of the musicians put forward a musical phrase as a marketing concept that “cut to the chase” for those who want to experience the music, but may not want to spend all night doing so.

That concept was Alla Breve.

Alla Breve is Italian music speak for “cut the playing time” or play faster. I think there is some wisdom here to share as we are often faced with the reality of “doing less”, ie cutting the time or “doing more” ie playing faster.

This likely impacts our professional and personal lives.

1)      Are we habitually “out of time” running from one meeting to another?

2)      Is there an on-going sense of frustration that that the task doesn’t fit the time?

3)      How can we shorten the time needed to do what we need to do?

4)      Do we know our “time signatures” and how to change them?

5)      Are we playing solo even though we are part of a larger group?

6)      When orchestrating plans are we being realistic?

7)      When was the last time we intentionally gave back time to somebody else?

8)      When was the last time we actually had time “given back”?

How to apply Alla Breve to the questions above goes a long way to determining if the sounds we fill the air with are sweet, melodic and harmonious or off pitch and in the wrong key.

Alla Breve starts by being mindful of our default time signatures both at home and at work. At Voltage Leadership, we utilize several assessment tools that help people understand their default personalities, motivational factors and cognitive capabilities. This helps illuminate if somebody is playing staccato (disjointed, disconnected) instead of legato (smooth, flowing.) Knowing when to “go hard” ie Allegro vs “when to play more slowly” ie Adagio can make all the difference in the tonal quality of our lives!

A few ideas:

·     Try cutting a one hour meeting to 45 minutes.

·     If the agenda is too long, then do 2-3 items and agree to emailing each other for the rest.

·     Question if you really need to meet weekly for your next project.

·     Review your priorities and meetings for the next week on Friday. Do you still need to attend all the meetings? Who could go in your place? Now, how will you invest your new found time?

So, the next time we are asked to sit through Handel’s Messiah, when we really only need Chopin’s two-minute Waltz, think “Alla Breve” and use the time redeemed to make beautiful music elsewhere!

For further discussion on this concept of Alla Breve in our work lives, listen to this episode of our VoltCast radio show, Illuminating Leadership.


I have a leader who has come to me wanting a different outcome for his business. He is looking to have a transformational year. I asked for the date and time he meets with his team. He did not have an answer. He does not like meetings. He has gone so far as to delegate the weekly team meeting to an associate. He does not even attend. There are no monthly or annual meetings. There are only team meetings regarding projects. There is not one meeting that is focused on the business itself.

Until this changes, he will not realize the success he is looking for, and until he is willing to commit to that meeting, I suspect he will continue to be frustrated by getting the same results. Change is hard, but it is worth it: new habits deliver new results.

Most clients who come to us looking for support with their strategy need help with one thing: organizing the process. Strategic planning today requires that a leader overcome an internal obstacle: their own resistance.  

Here is my one step plan that will deliver any organization, business segment, or team to greater success in 2017:

Plan to meet.

I know. Meetings are not what you wanted to hear me call for right out of the gate. But it is essential.

Great leaders schedule their planning time a year in advance and prioritize and protect that time.

Here is what to schedule:

Meet annually for 2-3 days of vision-casting and strategic thinking.

Meet quarterly for a half or full day of strategic problem solving.  Begin by celebrating successes! This ensures outcome accountability and maintains momentum.

Senior leaders will have 2 meetings, 1 in which they lead their direct reports, and another in which they participate with their peers.

Meet monthly, for 90 minutes or a half day depending on leadership level. An important shift takes place here: a move from strategy to tactics.

This monthly meeting is a tactical problem-solving and obstacle-removing meeting. It is a time to gather all key decision makers in the room to cut through red tape quickly. Everyone who needs to be consulted is present, and decisions can be made quickly. This is a decision-making, permission-giving meeting that clears obstacles. Attempt to schedule these on the same day and move from front-lines to senior leaders, so that issues that need to reach the highest level decision maker can be resolved the same day.

Leaders will have 2 meetings, 1 they lead and one they present issues that need to be escalated to the next level of decision maker.

Meet weekly for status updates and next steps. Thinking a week out allows for communication and collaboration across segments to identify obstacles and resolve them. 30 to 60 minutes.

Meet daily for a stand-up huddle (yes, literally stand up!) with you team. Allow a minute per person. These meetings address issues that need to be addressed in the next 24 hours.

When you plan these meetings, put them on the calendar, and communicate the schedule and purpose of these meetings an important shift begins to take place on your team: people know what kind of thinking belongs in each meeting.

Daily and weekly meetings are for tactical execution. Monthly meetings are for tactical problem solving, strategic alignment and accountability.

Quarterly and annual meetings are for strategic thinking, and shape organizational focus, momentum and engagement.

This year, sit down with your calendar and map out your year. It isn’t sexy, but it works.

How you spend your time is the most critical element of your success. Planning to be strategic, relevant and successful means putting the dates and times you need to think, collaborate, plan, and communicate on the calendar before you begin. That way you know in advance you are planning for success.

If you find yourself frustrated with the status quo and wanting a different year in 2017 than you had last year, do something different.

Unsure where to begin?

Retain a skilled outside facilitator who can lead an offsite to begin to shape your organizational thinking rhythm. A good facilitator should be able to create a 2 day process that both maps out the thinking rhythm for the year and facilitates the strategic thinking process of the team.

In 2017: Plan to meet. Then be smart about what you do when you are together. It is that simple. 


Who has inspired you? Who have you inspired?

The other day I was walking through a grocery store and a local business owner named “Jay” came walking up, shook my hand, and proceeded to tell me how I “got him up on his feet and moving again.” This sounded great except for one small detail. I cannot ever recall having a dialog with Jay about getting him up and moving again.

As we were both going through the checkout line, I asked him how and when did I get him up and moving again?  He said, “I watched you jog by our house.” That was it. That got me thinking back to when I found some motivation to start moving my feet, i.e. “get up and moving again.”

Like a lot of busy people, I had to re-commit to finding time to get physical and focusing on meaningful self care. Back then a routine trip to the doctor was somewhat of a wakeup call. I’d gained some weight and was stressing too much at times leading to a spiked blood pressure. What? For years, I had never really had any of these types of concerns to worry about. Nevertheless, there they were.

Just before this doctor visit, we had a company function at a sports arena. We invited clients and guests from all over. It was fun. We had some great networking and mixing. I noticed one of our clients in attendance. He was tall, athletic and had obviously lost some weight. I told him, “Wow, you look great! How did you do that?” He replied that he also had faced some less than favorable news at the doctor’s office and it motivated him to get after it with diet and exercise. This was a combination of working with a personal trainer and monitoring his nutritional intake.

All I knew was that he looked great. That night I said to myself, “I’ll have what he’s having”. Although I am certain he didn’t wake up that morning thinking, “I am going to go motivate Lee”, he clearly made an impression on me.  In other words, his motivation had an impact on me.

At Voltage, we talk about taking baby steps to make change happen. The time had arrived for me to practice our own medicine. The wheels were turning, goals for weight loss and moving the feet were set. Cut out 100% of junk food and drink. Because of the weight gain, it wasn’t wise to just start jogging again. I started walking modest distances of 1-2 miles. After a couple weeks, I added a weighted vest. After a couple of more weeks, I increased the weight in the vest, increased my distance and threw in some hills. After about 8-10 weeks, 25+ pounds fell off. I could now start moving my feet toward the next goal.

I called a close friend of mine and asked him to run with me in a 5 miler along the shore of Lake Michigan. He agreed and the challenge for us was set. We had to train up for this. Over the summer months the baby steps increased. First jogging 3, then 4, then 5 miles within a targeted time. “D-day” came in the Fall. We joined 18,000 other runners, hit the finish line and achieved the goal. I watched as my friend’s swagger returned. It was awesome to see.

I am not a marathon runner and never want to be. My range in the “old days” was a 10k or 6.2 miles. Since the running event, it’s been a minimum of 5 miles, sometimes 10k every weekend. Guess what, I’m not giving it back. It’s in the striving, not the arriving and the people around us take notice without us saying a word.

What is the impact from your motivation? Who has inspired you? Who can you inspire this week? Get motivated and pass it on.



On Monday you go to work, say hi to the same 3-5 people, check your 77 new messages, get a cup of coffee, and head out to the first of five meetings for the day. Repeat this process Tuesday-Friday while throwing in a few emergencies, fire drills, a bit of office politics, a couple of kid’s soccer games at night and bam, it is Friday evening and you wonder what happened to the week! Does this sound familiar? You start to wonder when was the last time you were really challenged or engaged in learning something new? When was the last time your boss gave you a real stretch assignment? If this sounds a bit like your life, you might be in the dreaded ZOMBIE zone, aka the comfort zone.

I call it the Zombie zone because you come in day in and day out and not too much changes.  You can have a new hire, a small new project, or new customer but the days all start to roll by at a similar pace. You find yourself excited that it is Hump Day Wednesday or finally Friday. You might dread Sunday night and the thought of returning to work on Monday. The antidote to the Dreaded Zombie Zone is to learn something new.


I think I had drifted into the comfort zone this past Spring and summer.  The work was still interesting and I loved working with our clients. However, I felt a bit stale at times and did not really feel like I was learning a ton.  I was then called by VoiceAmerica and asked if I would be a Radio Show Host. After some soul searching and a bit of nervous back and forth thinking, I accepted and started planning for the show.  I was very blessed to work with Winston Price who is a talented Executive Producer. We launched “Voltcast: Illuminating Leadership” on September 13th and now my weeks have more pep in them. I look forward to the show and I am constantly thinking about other people to have on the show or new things I want to try.  I have found myself even sketching out thoughts for the show on a Saturday morning.  I am fully in the learning zone and I wanted to share a few observations from trying something new.

1.      It felt weird at first.  It was like using a new muscle. I was so concentrated on hitting the breaks on time, enunciating clearly and following my outline that I did not really connect with the audience.

2.      Learning new language takes a minute. There are executive producers, sound engineers, e-cards, segments, breaks, hard stops, rejoiners, teasers and more. I did not realize how many moving parts there were to a radio show and it felt overwhelming at first. I also felt like a novice because I did not know how to use the right language.

3.      Mentors matter.  Winston has done an awesome job of being patient and has adjusted to my learning style. He broke down what I needed to learn into manageable parts to keep me out of the panic zone. He has also pushed me several times to get into the learning zone and out of my comfort zone. I love the feedback that he has given me and I can see myself growing.

4.      Baby steps are critical. I cannot believe how much I have learned since June. I think if someone had given me a big manual in June of what I needed to know by October, I would have been overwhelmed.  Also, have some patience when asking others to move out of their comfort zone. I have had Jennifer Owen-O’Quill, Lee Hubert and Marisa Keegan on the show and while nervous at first, they have all done great. To help ease into becoming more comfortable with the show we have thoughtfully planned our discussion, breaks and questions. These baby steps in the learning process have led to earlier success of our show.

5.      Not everyone will believe in your vision.  Some people raise an eyebrow and look at me funny when I say I am hosting a show.  They ask how this helps my core business. I let them know how it is expanding my presence as a thought leader. Many of them sort of nod their head but do not really see it.  My learning is that I am excited about the path that I am on and not everyone will agree.  Do not let others steal your passion.

I challenge you to look at your daily life and see where you might have gotten into a comfort zone. It might be you are doing the same 3 mile run every day. Maybe you eat at the same 2 restaurants. When was the last time you made a new friend? When was the last time you volunteered to head something up at work? I hope you take on a new challenge and see what you find in the learning zone. I encourage you to sign up for only one or two new things at once as too many might send you into the panic zone.  In the meantime, check out our radio show and send me an email with feedback on how we are doing. We are on VoiceAmerica from 1-2pm Eastern each Tuesday.


The first step in getting noticed is often overlooked by professionals who should know better.

That step is to follow a successful pattern that has worked for countless others in the past:

A – I – C – D – E/C

These letters stand for:

         1.     Attention                       

Can I get your undivided attention?

Do I have your undivided attention?

     2.   Interest

Once I do, are you interested at all in what I have to say?

     3.   Conviction                     

Your attention fuels my passion to contribute in a meaningful way.

     4.    Desire                             

 Your attention energizes my sense of impact and ownership.

5.  Engage/Commit          

The expression of my passions and ownership engages me in real ways.

Many have modified this pattern over the years.  Some have flipped steps three and four while others have changed the wording slightly. For our purposes of discussing the facilitation of cultural change, I will also change the wording slightly of the final step five from “Close” to “Engagement and Commitment”

In cultural change efforts, the momentum of the legacy (incumbent) culture can be very difficult to overcome.  The organizational physics of change dictates that resistance must be overcome by facilitating current flow over channels (media) that can accommodate the increased voltage.

 In short, the litany of resistance includes:

·       “That’s not my job.”

·       “We don’t do things that way around here.”

·       “We tried that before and it didn’t work then and it won’t work now.”

·       “Nobody seems to care, so why should I?”

·       “Nobody really knows what I do here.  They just keep piling on more.”

·       “We get mixed messages and are forced to take action and hope we are right.”

 If you want to obtain buy-in for change efforts, you will need to get the attention of the rank and file workforce.  Who carries that message?  Usually, it’s the Managers who do.  They need to become the new medium or channel by which the new energy flows.  How will you genuinely get their attention?

The answer is by applying integrity to leadership and not corporate glad-handing.

You pay the price of admission by:

acknowledging what is,

making the changes that are actionable, and

communicating the rationale for those that are not.

If you want to obtain buy-in for change efforts, you will need to get the attention of the leadership.  Are you able to get their attention? Are they so busy with the crisis of the day that you cannot be heard? Very often the answers to many dilemmas that seem to have no end in sight rests with paying attention to and diving deeper into the Management ranks. The answers are there.  Are you being heard?  If not, why not?



How many times in getting a New Year underway do we run into the proverbial wall and ask, “How did we get here and how do we get unstuck and get going?”

We might be stuck implementing change, leading a project team, writing, or with some other key initiative.  Executives, managers, teams, and individuals can minimize the frustration associated with being stuck in nonproductive time and get going by applying these Voltage principles to Get Unstuck:

·       Get Clear

·       Get Real

·       Get Good

·       Get Going

·       Get on with It.

GET CLEAR – Clarity Is the Greatest Time Saver

Have the right people meet at the right time to define the current state and to get clarity about exactly where things are stuck and how to get going to where we need to be.

Leaders lead.  They answer the imperative question, “Why do we do what we do?”

Without clarity of purpose, participants may become resistant.  Without a common language and understanding of the current situation, participants become reluctant to take chances and, perhaps, may even come to resent the leadership team that placed them in this position.  The position of knowing the clock is ticking, knowing that they will have accountabilities, but not having clarity about what the accountabilities are is most uncomfortable.

GET REAL – What Is the Plan?

Leaders lead.  They identify SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) for the plan and determine SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely).  They track and measure the goals as work on the plan progresses.

GET GOOD – What Does Our Best Look Like?

Leaders lead. They repeatedly communicate vision to the organization, clarifying what the best looks like.  They are a walking example of aligning behavior with goals.

Leaders adjust their style to become citizens of the future state.  They live in a different space.  They forgo passivity and negativity in favor of rational (not emotional) accountability.

GET GOING – Get Over the Hurdle

Leaders lead the Journey.  They take steps to overcome cultural resistance to change by formally communicating the plan and the rationale for the decisions that have been made.  Team members may not agree or even like the decisions made, but they cannot fairly say they were uninformed.  Leaders make changes to their approach when necessary.  They make themselves available to keep communication flowing. 

GET ON WITH IT – Owning a Culture of Success

Leaders lead.  They share success and success stories.  This, in turn, adds positive momentum and cultural buy-in which promotes a culture of success.

Using these tools to Get Unstuck and Get Going will help minimize frustration and make 2016 a successful New Year!